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The First Gen Z Candidates are Running for Congress — and Running Against Compromise

It isn’t hard for Maxwell Alejandro Frost to name political moments throughout his childhood that have stuck with him.

“Turning on the TV and seeing a bunch of people sleeping outside of Wall Street talking about something called ‘wealth inequality’ – seeing that in elementary school,” Frost said.

“Growing up learning that 30 minutes away from me, a kid that looked like me who was wearing a hoodie was murdered for being Black, Trayvon Martin, and seeing the outrage after that,” he added.

Frost is running for Congress in Florida’s 10th Congressional District, an open and solidly blue seat containing parts of Orlando – he’s 25 years old, the minimum age to serve in the U.S. House.

He’s also part of Generation Z – which the Pew Research Center defines as anyone born between the years 1997 in 2012 – and, if elected, would potentially be the first Gen Z member of Congress. The 2022 midterm cycle marks the first time in 16 years that Millennials are not the youngest generation able to run, raising questions about how Gen Z will approach Washington.

For Frost, his roots are in organizing, working as an activist since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 and most recently serving as the national organizing director for March For Our Lives, a youth-led group advocating for increased gun control policy. He’s also a survivor of a separate incident of gun violence.

A generation shaped by upheaval

He says that Gen Z has a new way of approaching politics, given this generation has come of age during such a volatile period in American history.

“Our generation has been born into a lot of trauma and a lot of civil unrest around people being frustrated with things. And I think because of that, our generation naturally thinks about things in a bit of a different way,” Frost said.

In the Saint Louis suburbs, 25-year-old Ray Reed is also breaking from the traditional mold. He’s an organizer and former Democratic campaign staffer vying to oust Republican Rep. Ann Wagner in Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District, and he pushes back against those who say he should start in local politics.

Ray Reed, a Democratic candidate in Missouri's 2nd Congressional District, speaks to voters on April 28 at City Hall in Brentwood.
Ray Reed, a Democratic candidate in Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District, speaks to voters on April 28 at City Hall in Brentwood.
Brian Munoz/STLPR

“The cynics kind of say, oh, he’s too young, he’s too untried, maybe if he were to spend, a few terms in Jeff[erson] City, maybe then he’ll be ready to run for Congress. Which is really just political talk for let’s get him in our system. Let’s teach him how to play the game our way. And then if we say he’s ready, he can run for a higher office,” Reed said.

He says cynics cast him out as the risky pick.

“I think the real risk is to nominate the same type of Democratic candidates election after election after election and somehow expect a different result,” he added.

Both Reed and Frost are progressives, honing in on issues like curbing gun violence, passing the Green New Deal and canceling student debt.

After the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe vs. Wade, both candidates expressed outrage over the ruling and posted photos and videos of protests they attended.

Reed also tied the decision back to Gen Z voters.

And while Frost and Reed are issue-oriented, there’s no denying that age is part of their campaigns.

To Frost, the potential to make history as the first Gen Z House member plays more of a symbolic role.

“Yes we march, yes we engage in mutual aid, yes we engage on social media, and now we’re running for office because we believe that we are prepared to be in the rooms and to be the voice for our communities and we can do that and young people should be allowed,” he said.

Though Frost faces a challenge from his primary opponent, state Sen. Randolph Bracy, he has picked up a slew of high-profile endorsements, including from progressive leaders like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. He’s also got the backing of the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC and the gun control organization Giffords.

What propels young candidates to run?

Frost and Reed’s drive makes sense to Amanda Litman, a Millennial and the CEO of Run for Something, an organization that supports first-time Democratic candidates.

“You don’t run for office as a 25-year-old because it is your next step in your career or it is the thing you’ve been planning for since you were a kindergartener or a college president,” Litman said. “You run because there is a problem that is so fiercely driving you that you can’t imagine doing anything else with your time,” she added.

But this passion isn’t just found among Democratic candidates – Karoline Leavitt is a fierce conservative running for Congress in New Hampshire’s 1st District, a toss-up seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas.

Leavitt walking in a Christmas parade in Salem, NH last December.
Leavitt walking in a Christmas parade in Salem, NH last December.
Karoline For Congress

Leavitt turns 25 in August, making her eligible to serve in Congress by next January.

“It’s a very one-sided culture that we live in,” Leavitt said, “How do we break through that mold? It’s by electing young people to office that can resonate with these voters, have a platform at the national stage, that can show them ideas, policies, values that they’re not hearing elsewhere at all.”

Leavitt is already a vetted GOP staffer, working in the Trump administration as an assistant press secretary. Most recently, she served as the spokeswoman for Millennial Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who made history in 2014 as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress at that point. Leavitt is also endorsed by Stefanik, along with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Madison Cawthorn, N.C.

Though Gen Z’s early voting trends are decidedly liberal, Leavitt hopes her campaign will energize young conservatives and steer voters away from progressive ideas she argues are too extreme.

“I think some of these more progressive candidates are just a reflection of the system that exists and it’s the exact system I’m trying to fight against,” she said.

Leavitt sits to the right side of then White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany as she holds a briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House.
Leavitt sits to the right side of then White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany as she holds a briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

From the opposite end of the political spectrum, Frost shares a similar fighting attitude when envisioning how he would work in a bitterly divided Congress.

“We come to the negotiating table not already at the compromise, which is usually what Democrats tend to do,” Frost said. “I think this is part of the reason why the Republican Party has these long-term plans that a lot of times come to fruition,” he added.

The Gen Z approach to politics diverges from Millennials

This determination to stand by your values shows an apparent deviation from the Millennial generation who came to Congress during the Obama presidency, according to Kristin Soltis Anderson, a conservative pollster and strategist — who’s also a Millennial.

“The frame has shifted from, ‘I’m going to bring about that change by being someone who looks for opportunities to work across the aisle,’ and more, ‘I’m going to disrupt the institutions and systems that are allowing the other side to continue to prevail,'” she said.

But coming to Congress and disrupting the institution isn’t received the same way by Democrats compared to Republicans.

“It’s very striking that while the Democratic Party does better among younger voters, they don’t seem to have cornered the market on elevating younger candidates,” Anderson said.

To Litman, this is where Democrats have a big problem, and she points to the age breakdown among House leadership in each party.

“There is really no incentive for older folks in Congress to step aside and let a younger generation lead,” Litman said, “because the longer you serve, the more likely you are to get seniority within a committee.”

Stefanik (left) and Leavitt (Right) walk through the Capitol Visitors Center on May 14, the day Republican members voted Stefanik to House leadership.
Stefanik (left) and Leavitt (Right) walk through the Capitol Visitors Center on May 14, the day Republican members voted Stefanik to House leadership.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Unlike on the Democratic side, Republicans have started elevating younger members. Last year, Stefanik moved up in GOP ranks, becoming the Chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, and bringing the average age of GOP leadership down to 55.

On the Democratic side, Millennial trailblazers remain left out of leadership, and the average age is 71.

This age disparity between parties prompts Anderson to argue that neither side has a real leg up right now.

“I don’t think either party has a dramatic advantage on elevating Generation Z voices in elected office at this moment, and that’s despite the fact that Democrats do have an advantage among those voters at the ballot box,” she said.

While both Democratic and Republican prospects with future Gen Z members remain unclear, the inaugural class running this midterm cycle forges onward towards their primaries.

Reed’s match-up in Missouri is set for Aug 1., Frost’s in Florida is Aug. 23 and Leavitt’s in New Hampshire is Sept. 13.

 

(MPR News)

More Data That Sellers’ Asking Prices for Homes are Retreating

Home sellers’ concerns are accelerating into the summer based on an unsteady economy and rising interest rates and inflation.

More sellers than ever are dropping their asking prices as suddenly the single-family home market has shifted to favor the buyers, according to a new report from real estate brokerage Redfin.

Redfin Seattle-area real estate agent Caroline Loudenback said in prepared remarks, “Homebuyers are worried about interest rates, having to go back to the office, getting laid off, and wondering if they can get a better deal by waiting out the market.”

“The median asking price of newly-listed homes for sale are down 1.5% from the all-time high it reached in the spring, and a record-high share of sellers dropped their asking price during the four-week period ending June 26,” according to Redfin’s report.

Buyers Coming Back – Later

Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather said in prepared remarks, “Data on home-tours, offers and mortgage purchase applications suggest that homebuyers have noticed the shift in power and are no longer leaving the market in droves.

“Buyers coming back will provide support to the housing market, but between now and the end of year I think the power will continue to shift towards buyers, resulting in mild price declines from month to month.”

Other Key Data

  • 30-year mortgage rates fell slightly to 5.7% for the week ending June 30.
  • “Homes for sale” searches on Google during the week ending June 25 were down 7% from a year earlier.

(Globe St)

New York Times: The Midterm Campaigns for the House and the Senate are Shaping up Quite Differently.

A bluer picture

The midterm polls continue to look dark for Democrats, as we explained in a newsletter last week. Inflation and Covid disruptions, as well as the normal challenges that a presidents’s party faces in midterms, are weighing on the party. As a result, the Republicans are heavily favored to retake control of the House.
But the situation in the Senate looks different, my colleague Blake Hounshell points out.
There are 10 potentially competitive Senate races this year, according to the Cook Political Report, and Democrats need to win at least five of them to keep Senate control. Democrats are favored in two of those 10 races (New Hampshire and Colorado) and Cook rates another five (Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) as tossups.
If Democrats keep the Senate without the House, they still would not be able to pass legislation without Republican support. But Senate control nonetheless matters. It would allow President Biden to appoint judges, Cabinet secretaries and other top officials without any Republican support, because only the Senate needs to confirm nominees.
I’m turning over the rest of today’s lead item to Blake, who will preview the campaign for Senate control.
Senate Democrats are starting to see the opportunity to retain the Senate after the midterms.Tom Brenner for The New York Times
Author Headshot By Blake Hounshell

Editor, On Politics

When asked to share their candid thoughts about the Democrats’ chances of hanging onto their House majority in the coming election, party strategists often use words that cannot be printed in a family newsletter.
But a brighter picture is coming together for Democrats on the Senate side. There, Republicans are assembling what one top strategist laughingly described as an “island of misfit toys” — a motley collection of candidates the Democratic Party hopes to portray as out of the mainstream on policy, personally compromised and too cozy with Donald Trump.
These vulnerabilities have led to a rough few weeks for Republican Senate candidates in several of the most competitive races:
  • Arizona: Blake Masters, a venture capitalist who secured Trump’s endorsement and is leading the polls in the Republican primary, has been criticized for saying that “Black people, frankly” are responsible for most of the gun violence in the U.S. Other Republicans have attacked him for past comments supporting “unrestricted immigration.”
  • Georgia: Herschel Walker, the G.O.P. nominee facing Senator Raphael Warnock, acknowledged being the parent of three previously undisclosed children. Walker regularly inveighs against absentee fathers.
  • Pennsylvania: Dr. Mehmet Oz, who lived in New Jersey before announcing his Senate run, risks looking inauthentic. Oz recently misspelled the name of his new hometown on an official document.
  • Nevada: Adam Laxalt, a former state attorney general, said at a pancake breakfast last month that “Roe v. Wade was always a joke.” That’s an unpopular stance in socially liberal Nevada, where 63 percent of adults say abortion should be mostly legal.
  • Wisconsin: Senator Ron Johnson made a cameo in the Jan. 6 hearings when it emerged that, on the day of the attack, he wanted to hand-deliver a fraudulent list of electors to former Vice President Mike Pence.
Republicans counter with some politically potent arguments of their own, blaming Democrats for rising prices and saying that they have veered too far left for mainstream voters.
In Pennsylvania, for instance, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic Senate nominee, supports universal health care, federal marijuana legalization and criminal justice reform. Republicans have been combing through his record and his past comments to depict him as similar to Bernie Sanders, the self-described Democratic socialist.

Candidate vs. candidate

One factor working in the Democrats’ favor is the fact that only a third of the Senate is up for re-election, and many races are in states that favor Democrats.
Another is the fact that Senate races can be more distinct than House races, influenced less by national trends and more by candidates’ personalities. The ad budgets in Senate races can reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars, giving candidates a chance to define themselves and their opponents.
Democrats are leaning heavily on personality-driven campaigns, promoting Senator Mark Kelly in Arizona as a moderate, friendly former astronaut and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada as a fighter for abortion rights, retail workers and families.
“Senate campaigns are candidate-versus-candidate battles,” said David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Democrats’ Senate campaign arm. “And while Democratic incumbents and candidates have developed their own brands, Republicans have put forward deeply, deeply flawed candidates.” Bergstein isn’t objective, but that analysis has some truth to it.
There are about four months until Election Day, an eternity in modern American politics. As we’ve seen from the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling and from the explosive allegations that emerged in the latest testimony against Trump, the political environment can shift quickly.
If the election were held today, polls suggests that Democrats would be narrowly favored to retain Senate control. Republican elites are also terrified that voters might nominate Eric Greitens, the scandal-ridden former governor, for Missouri’s open Senate seat, jeopardizing a seat that would otherwise be safe.
But the election, of course, is not being held today, and polls are fallible, as we saw in 2020. So there’s still a great deal of uncertainty about the outcome. Biden’s approval rating remains low, and inflation is the top issue on voters’ minds — not the foibles of individual candidates.
For now, Democrats are pretty pleased with themselves for making lemonade out of a decidedly sour political environment.

(New York Times)

Construction Starts Continue to Climb, but Slowdown May be Looming for Specific Sectors

Construction starts have remained robust this year but certain sectors could begin to see a slowdown in the coming months.

Total construction starts rose 4% in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $979.5 billion, according to data released late last week by Hamilton, New Jersey-based Dodge Data and Analytics LLC. But among the major categories tracked by Dodge, nonresidential building starts was the only one that increased, by 20%, while residential starts fell by 4% and nonbuilding starts dropped 2% during the month.

It’s a signal homebuilders are starting to pull back on what had been an active construction pipeline through the Covid-19 pandemic, as demand for housing wanes amid a rising-interest-rate environment.

Year-to-date, total construction is 6% higher in the first five months of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021. In that period, residential starts have actually grown 3%, suggesting the tide is only starting to change on the homebuilding front.

Nonresidential building starts have increased 17% annually in the first five months of the year, while nonbuilding starts are 5% down.

Dodge didn’t respond by deadline for an interview request.

Richard Branch, chief economist at Dodge Construction Network, said in a statement the construction sector has become increasingly bifurcated in the past several months.

“Nonresidential building construction is clearly trending higher with broad-based resilience across the commercial, institutional and manufacturing spaces,” he said. “However, growth in the residential market has been choked off by higher mortgage rates and rapidly falling demand for single-family housing. Nonbuilding starts, meanwhile, have yet to fully realize the dollars authorized by the infrastructure act.”

Branch said while the overall trend in construction starts is positive, the very aggressive stance taken by the Federal Reserve to combat inflation risks slowing momentum in construction.

Ken Simonson, chief economist at the Associated General Contractors of America, said in an interview he felt homebuilders are in much more precarious position right now than multifamily or nonresidential construction.

Ripple effects on construction starts from the passage of the federal $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act late last year hasn’t been felt yet. Simonson said for a while he’s expected contractors wouldn’t go to work on any IIJA-funded projects until late 2022 or early 2023, which he said he continues to expect. When that occurs, that’ll bolster the pipeline for the nonbuilding sector.

Outside of single-family home construction, multifamily and warehouse development — both of which have seen big growth through the pandemic — may be the most vulnerable to a slowdown, Simonson said.

Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) disclosure this spring that it had excessive warehouse capacity is one signal of slackening demand, he continued.

“Now that there’s doubt about how strong consumer demand is going to be for goods, I think other businesses are going to slacken their buying and building of warehouse space,” Simonson said.

Amid rising costs and interest rates, it’ll become more challenging for multifamily developers to pencil out deals, also making it more vulnerable than other sectors, he added.

One of the sectors likely to boom: manufacturing. New automotive plants, and large-scale facilities to support the burgeoning electric-vehicle industry, will translate to new business for general contractors nationally, Simonson said.

The largest nonresidential building projects to break ground in May were the $950 million Meta Platforms Inc. (NASDAQ: META) Hyperscale data center in Temple, Texas; the $940 million Digital Dulles data center in Dulles, Virginia; and a $540 million mixed-use building in New York, according to Dodge.

(Minneapolis/ St. Paul Business Journal)